Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu (second from right) had a recent chance to give rural MLA colleagues Roly Russell (from left), Brittny Anderson, and Katrina Conroe a tour of the Vernon Public Art Gallery. The Regional District of North Okanagan has come up with a new financial plan for a Greater Vernon Cultural Centre. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu (second from right) had a recent chance to give rural MLA colleagues Roly Russell (from left), Brittny Anderson, and Katrina Conroe a tour of the Vernon Public Art Gallery. The Regional District of North Okanagan has come up with a new financial plan for a Greater Vernon Cultural Centre. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Approval sought for smaller, cheaper Greater Vernon cultural centre

Scope of project size drops, reducing cost; alternate approval process in place to borrow funds

The Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) is taking an important next step in the process of building the Greater Vernon Cultural Centre.

Updates to the plan have seen the original cost estimate of $40 million drop to $28 million. As a result, board directors have approved the alternate approval process to borrow the funds.

“Since electoral approval to borrow $25 million received by referendum in 2018 was conditional on receiving those grants, the RDNO is proposing a different pathway to building the cultural centre,” said the regional district in a release Wednesday, March 23.

In 2016, the RDNO completed a cultural plan to articulate a long-term vision for cultural vitality in Greater Vernon. The research phase of creating the plan was extensive and sought to understand the needs, wants, and ideas of the community through multiple public input opportunities, Greater Vernon Advisory Committee workshops, and an analysis of existing documents like Official Community Plans and the Strategic Plans of local culture organizations.

The community shared its desire for a new art gallery, an adaptable performance space in downtown Vernon, and a new museum as strong priorities to the community. Building the Greater Vernon Cultural Centre is the RDNO’s proposed method of addressing all three of these priorities through one facility.

In 2018, the RDNO estimated that the cultural centre would cost $40 million. The strategy to obtain that amount of money included securing grants from senior levels of government, borrowing up to $25 million, and fundraising. The grants did not come through, hence plan B.

Since the 2018 referendum, a significant amount of work has taken place. The RDNO has confirmed the site location to be the Vernon Block downtown (old Coldstream Hotel site). The RDNO has also worked closely with the Greater Vernon Museum and the Vernon Public Art Gallery to gain a deeper understanding of their needs and how to make the Cultural Centre a facility that empowers both groups to further add to the cultural vibrancy of Greater Vernon.

The RDNO has also consulted experts in construction and project management to help refine costing and adapt the plan to the current construction climate.

Several key changes to the project include:

• The size of the building was reduced, made possible by maximizing usable and shared space in the building;

• The construction cost decreased because of the smaller size, and the ability to phase in some costs related to building components (fixtures and equipment) as grants and fundraising dollars are secured;

• The construction cost per square foot increased due to higher than expected cost escalation;

Overall, these updates reduced the estimated construction cost of the cultural centre to $28 million.

“The RDNO board of directors is now seeking approval from electors to adopt a bylaw giving the RDNO the authority to borrow those funds approval through an Alternative Approval Process (AAP),” said the RDNO.

If elector approval is received, the RDNO will proceed to the design phase.

The AAP is an opportunity for eligible electors to oppose the adoption of Greater Vernon Multi-Purpose Cultural Facility Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 2910, 2021, by submitting a signed Elector Response Form to the RDNO by May 2 at 4 p.m. Eligible electors are those within the Greater Vernon Cultural Service Area, which is comprised of the District of Coldstream, City of Vernon and RDNO Electoral Areas B and C.

If the RDNO receives forms from 10 per cent (5,635) or more of the eligible electors, it cannot adopt Bylaw 2910 without receiving approval from electors through a subsequent referendum.

Since the AAP mechanism only tallies opposition, no action is required of eligible electors that are in favour of the proposal.

More information about the AAP and the project are available at rdno.ca.

READ MORE: Vernon cultural centre plans tweaked

READ MORE: Square footage may be revisited for Vernon cultural centre

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Arts and cultureMunicipal GovernmentPlanning